Watney’s on Objective Tasting

Adapted from Bulbs by Ignas Kukenys, on Flickr, under Creative Commons.

The Watney’s Quality Control manual we’re currently digesting not only contain instructions for brewing but also sets out how to manage a beer tasting session.

“You want me to take advice on tasting beer from Watney’s!?” our older readers might cry at this point. The fact is, it’s hard to read the QC tome without gaining a certain respect for the care and attention the Big Red Giant put into process, even if the products weren’t, er… universally adored.

The purpose of this test was to check that Red Barrel brewed in the regions was as near as possibly identical to that brewed at the mothership at Mortlake in London.

1. The Room

(a) should be quiet

(b) should be moderate in temperature (58-62°F) [14-16°C]

(c) and should be low in light intensity (twilight conditions)

The Accessories

(d) The light should be red in colour (to obscure difference in haze and colour)

(e) Seats should be provided for the taster to sit in a relaxed position.

(f) A glass of water and a sink should be provided for each taster.

(g) A form of recording the results should be provided for each taster.

2. The Beers

These should have been stood overnight at a temperature of 58-62°F. They should be of equal C02 content and should be poured so that all three glasses show equal amounts of head.

The instructions go on to suggest how results should be recorded and the role of the organiser in policing the process. There is also advice on testing the ‘skill and interest’ of the tasters:

Take some distilled or tap water which is free from unpleasant flavour, cool and bubble carbon dioxide through it to remove air and introduce carbon dioxide… This water is then added to a portion of beer to dilute it by 10%. This diluted beer and a control portion of the undiluted beer… are then used in a three-glass test [where two glasses contain the same beer]… The tasters are told beforehand only that one of the two beers is more dilute.

A sweetness test, run in exactly the same way, used a sample dosed with 4 grams of sucrose per litre.

It is possible to score 33% correct answers by mere “guessing”. Members taking part with average scores of 50% or more may be regarded as suitable tasters for a permanent panel. This eliminates people with low discriminating powers where beer tasting is concerned but, at the same time, the panel selected will not be too severe in its judgments.

We hadn’t considered it before but, yes, we can see that finicky super-tasters probably are as useless as total numb-tongues for this kind of task.

As it happens, we’re currently conducting what amounts to an extended experiment in total, carefree subjectivity. Both approaches, we think, have their place, but perhaps we’ll try extreme objectivity next. The only worry is what might happen if one of us gets deselected from the blog after the dilution test.

Illustration adapted from Bulbs by Ignas Kukenys, on Flickr, under Creative Commons.

8 thoughts on “Watney’s on Objective Tasting”

  1. “The light should be red in colour (to obscure difference in haze and colour)”
    Could we club together and get a set of these for Tandy?

    Seriously, though, it’s interesting that they want to eliminate the affect of appearance on the drinker. Are they assessing that separately and keen to just compare the taste in this test?

  2. That’s very interesting, very different from anything done today outside large brewery circles at any rate. I wonder if they had taste criteria too and whether they resemble those of today.


  3. Excellent! This was the kind of thing I was dragged into once in a while during university. Apparently Halifax NS was a good place to find tasters who were both keen but not overly formalized in such matters. Study places were even set up in malls. I like how this approach weeds out not only super-tasters but also likely those whose idea of a control group means people who have wee certificates in beer training and speak of “off tastes” but seldom pleasure.

  4. Pingback: MR | First Edition, October 2014 | Drunken Speculation

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